Mercy, not Sacrifice
‘I am more generous towards sinners than to the just. It was for their sake that I came down from heaven; it was for their sake that My blood was spilled. Let them not fear to approach Me; they are most in need of My Mercy.’ (1275)
Jesus sought out those with hearts hungry for the reign of His Kingdom. He describes that Kingdom in Luke 4:18 as good news for the poor, the imprisoned, the blind, and the oppressed. Missing from that Kingdom ‘call’ were dutiful members of the religious establishment.
Jesus describes the ‘just’ throughout the Gospels as those fixed on religious sacrifices—tithing scrupulously, praying punctually, splitting moral hairs continuously. What most seemed to lack was a need to be saved. Maybe their spiritual disciplines satisfied their hunger for God. Maybe their place of honor in the culture eased their shame so that a Savior seemed irrelevant.
Jesus gravitated toward the sin-sick, those without shelter for their shame. Some were oppressed by their own greed and lusts, like the sexually immoral; some, like Matthew the tax-collector, oppressed others with their greed. Jesus’ Mercy was magnetic for both groups. He realized that these were sheep without a Shepherd (Matt. 9:36), those most subject to harassment (literally, ‘without skin’) in a cruel and critical land.
He sought them out, and they sought Him out, because Jesus mirrored to them both the truth of sin’s oppression as well as its Merciful cure. Jesus hung out with the sinners who knew they were sinners. He did not wink at human bondage, nor is there any evidence that He tolerated those who did. Rather, He broke the yoke of such bondage through the rule of Love.
That is a vital point. Some progressive thinkers employ Jesus’ love for the underdog as proof that Jesus was pro-prostitute and pro-gay, as if Mercy rendered sexual sin a moot point in the Gospels. That is nonsensical. Jesus came for those sick of their sin; implicit here is a recognition of one’s sin and its destructiveness, two confessions you would never hear from a sex activist.
Theologian Dr. Robert Gagnon says it best : ‘Jesus balanced the Father’s ethical demands with His self-sacrificing outreach to transform sinners…He regarded sexual activity in thought and deed outside of lifelong marriage to the opposite sex as capable of jeopardizing one’s entrance into the Kingdom of God. What was distinctive about Jesus was His incredibly generous Spirit toward those who had lived in gross disobedience to God for years. He expended enormous effort and exhibited great compassion in His search for the lost.’ (The Bible and Homosexual Practice)
“It is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice’. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matt. 9:12)
‘Jesus, grant us Your heart for the lost. May the harassed and helpless find shelter with us. May we refuse the post-modern heresy of equating Jesus’ love for sinners with His tolerance of sexual sin. Grant us the power of Your Mercy, its energy and availability. May we be a window in which broken ones discover unfailing love. ’